Archive | March, 2011

Ladies’ Fellowship Weekend

27 Mar

I’m writing to you today from Champaign, IL! My friend Heidi hosted, as she has for the past two years, a ladies’ weekend. During the weekend, several ladies from the region (or the nation, if they can make it) come to her house and spend the weekend in religious, spiritual fellowship. It’s a good time for us to reconnect with one another on a personal level, since most of us know one another, but don’t always have the time to talk or engage in deeper conversations.

I left Thursday morning from AL and made it, with some interesting detours, to IL. I’m a pretty good navigator and have a paper atlas in my car, so I was confident that I could make it from my house to hers with only my iPhone. It worked, as in, I made it to the house without any glaring problems, but I definitely went the wrong way down some one-way streets and it took a few hours longer than I felt it should have.

It’s noteworthy to mention that I stopped in Nashville for about three or four hours earlier to hang out with a friend from my earlier days in Birmingham, pre-Cincinnati days. We stopped at the Pancake Pantry, which I would say is good but probably not worth the 30 minute wait on a Thursday morning. Unless you’re just a pancake fanatic. I had some lemon-apricot pancakes that were delicious, but at the end of the day- pancakes. Time with Alex was good, though. We haven’t spent significant time together in over two years and had not even seen each other since Thanksgiving 2009. We mainly stayed in the neighborhood with Pancake Pantry and Fido. We hit up the bookstore there and I got several autobiographies, picked out by Alex, including one on Malcolm X. Not generally my cup of tea, but if I’m genuinely interested in learning about the perspectives of other people, I have to go there. Besides, it might be something I really enjoy.

I made it to Heidi’s later Thursday evening. We spent an hour or so talking and then got up to go to her doctor’s appointment out in Amish country. I spent the time running (four miles!) After the morning, we got ready for the weekend, including baking and cleaning and just general prep for the other guests who were coming. I think Heidi and I were both feeling a little un-ourselves going into the evening, but by the time everyone arrived and got settled it was a really enjoyable time.

Sabbath morning, all the girls got together to do a brunch and spend a little bit of time talking about some of the stuff that has been going on in Church as well as topics particular to the day. It was nice because breakfast ended up being more of a brunch, closer to about 11 or 11:30, and it gave us nice time to sleep in, Bible study and pray. We attended services, came back to the house and made Thai food for the ten or so of us in attendance.

Saturday evening after the Sabbath we had a really nice, informal discussion about spiritual renewal. Such discussions are always really valuable, because even though we are all confident in our beliefs and our ability to understand the Bible, different perspectives enhance that understanding. Especially when we are on the same page to begin with. We talked for about two hours while eating cheesecake and drinking wine. I nearly started crying at one point, which is really odd for me. I’m not generally that girl, but I guess someone needs to be that girl.

This morning one of the other girls and I went running. I generally run by myself at home, but it was really enjoyable to go with another person. I also had the experience of being the pacer, which was a first, but worked really well. We ran slower than I normally do, but by the end of the run I felt I could have gone for another two miles or so. So either increasing my mileage is paying off for the shorter runs, or running slower really works. I’m hoping the former. Both are something to look into.

Overall, the dynamic for the weekend was really great. Not everyone had attended before, but they were all really comfortable in their own skins and I got to know a few people better, which is really nice. I like extending my circle of acquaintances, but building new friendships has to have a strong foundation, and it always feels like that happens at LFW.

It’s amazing. I think every year that Heidi puts this together I end up having a really good time and it always comes at a time I need it most. This year has been a little bit more difficult because of the move, because of my feeling of isolation. It was really nice to be with people of like mind, who share the same core values.

If anything about this weekend has helped, it is definitely the spiritual renewal. The most important thing in my life is my relationship with God. That comes before anything. Family, friends, or even this crazy quest to become a PT. I am so glad to have been recharged and to feel rejuvenated. A side benefit of the weekend, though, is focus for the physical tasks before me. I’ve been really filling my time in AL with running and cycling and time off, which has been great for some overall mental restoration and getting settled into the state. But I have other goals that need to be attended. Even while I’m waiting on enrollment status or scholarship updates or job enquiries, there are smaller details that go along with those that I can be looking into. Or even long-term goals that are a bit more nebulous at the moment.

So now Heidi and I are just cleaning up, spending time chatting. I’ll be leaving in the morning, whereas the rest left this afternoon, since I don’t have a job and I have a bit of a longer driver! Tomorrow evening I’ll be back in Alabama and getting back into the swing of things for two days… maybe three? After that, I’ll be turning to go even farther south for the wedding of my ex and former roommate! Ha!

It sounds a lot more awkward than it is. I’m actually really looking forward to it :D More on that later, though.

This whole posts feels a little disjointed. I’m not giving it a lot of editing time, just spellcheck really, and I’m writing on a Mac, which is a little awkward and jolting since I’m more used to a PC. Concluded!


The Spirit of Giving and, Unrelated, the Cure for National Problems

17 Mar

Monday, Sandy and I were trying to get license plate renewal done for the year. Well, she was. Since I was still waiting on other dominoes to fall into place before I could make that step, I was pretty much along for the ride. On the way back to the house, she told me to let her know when I was ready to get all of the stuff done and she would write a blank check for me to do the process.

I was a little confused and wary. When I told her she didn’t have to she told me that Dad had been intending to anyway. I explained that they didn’t need to feel like they had to help me. She said they didn’t feel that way, they were just going to do it. It was really weird, and I was feeling particularly paranoid as I do whenever money issues come up. Just short of saying that I didn’t need the money or the help, I protested as much as I could about the offer. Because it WOULD have been helpful, even though I am not yet struggling for money, and I never asked for the help.

It’s weird how hard it is for me to accept help, even from family. I have to be in a pretty desperate situation. This pops up in my spiritual life at times, too, which is a topic for another time. Ironically, on the other hand, at times I have extremely high expectations of people. The scenarios for which my expectations and obstinate refusal manifest overlap, which adds to the confusion.

In this case, my paranoia was tingling because, maybe, it feels like if I take money from someone it will make me obligated to them in some way. It will allow them to have control over me. In reality, I think that “control” is only present when I become eaten up with guilt over accepting help in the first place. Like I owe that person something and they could ask it of me at any time.

I was thinking of something much more nebulous than this when we were still driving home when I channeled my other roommate Izzie, who was always counseling me to be less paranoid and afraid of such things. I asked myself, “What is the deal? Why IS it such a big deal?” This is cool because I’m not usually self-aware until the moment has passed. This time, though, I relented. I reminded myself that I did not ask for the help that was offered, and that it WOULD be helpful.

We were riding along, and I apologized for making a big deal about the situation and accepted her offer. She assured me that things were fine and the next day when my dominoes fell into place, she made good on it. I got my new car tag and title transfer courtesy of Sandy and Dad.

The other stray thought that occurred to me today was how awesome it is that I’ve been able to run and cycle so much. Day before yesterday I rode 7.5 miles around the area. Since I just started cycling regularly three weeks ago, this is pretty good! Yesterday I ran 3+ miles, upping my overall running time and recently I was running 8min miles, which is amazing and definitely PRish. Today I cycled 8 more miles. Even though I recently took a bad spill on the same bike, I’m really enjoying getting my heart going so much.

Afterwards, the thought that occurred to me was that if more people moved in with their family and spent the time they are unemployed not watching TV but out cycling or running or doing some kind of exercise, we’d have a few less problems in our country:
– less strain on government benefits
– less overall obesity in the country (which contributes to the above, as well, since people would not have to rely on so much healthcare!)

It was slightly facetious on my part, since I seriously doubt people would give up their independence on so many levels. It IS a good idea, though. It would work :)

Trials and Tribulations

13 Mar

Originally written on 3/12:
We had our first “crisis” since my stay here. No, not my dad leaving unexpectedly for Iraq. Technically, that bombshell occurred before I came here.

Yesterday, I left the house to get dinner. I came back and used the garage door opener to get into the house- we only have two keys between the four of us and my brother has one but he’s a few hundred miles away. So until a spare can be made, I’ve been using the garage door opener. I got inside and hit the switch again to shut the door. It started making the most awful racket, and one side was lowering more than the other side. Pretty soon, the upper leftmost corner threw one of its wheels and dropped out of the track.

I stopped the switch, fairly freaking out that I had managed some large scale destruction half a month into my stay, halting the door mid-close. I called Dad, currently in Texas before he flies over to the ME, and told him the details of the bungling. He said we could try to call my uncle to come over and fix it- the same grumpy uncle who suggested I do a two-year PT program. Fortunately, he wasn’t upset at all. I guess when you break news with, “This is really bad, and I hate to tell you, but…” parents’ minds tend to go to the worst case scenario. Just a tip for future reference.

When Sandy got home, I recounted the particulars to her as well. I had texted her beforehand not to use the door since she was out at dinner with her family. She was alarmed about the door, but not upset with me, fortunately. When I apologized she brushed it aside, saying if it had not happened with me it would have happened with her or Dad. That was a big relief.

The problem came when she announced that we would try to fix it tomorrow. This is fairly rational seeing as most people don’t leave their garages open when they are asleep and vulnerable. However, we live in a very, very small neighborhood, with about twenty houses, not all of which are even occupied. We all know each other and it is very safe. More importantly, I am a seventh day Sabbath keeper. From sunset Friday to sunset Saturday I don’t do any work, unless it constitutes an emergency- ox in the ditch, if you will. An ambiguously broken garage door in my mind does not an emergency make.

Well, a few moments ago, that’s exactly what we did. We went into the garage and I held the door up while Sandy put the wheel back in its track, after taking off the plate that held the wheel in place and reattaching it in that order. After about thirty minutes of this, we tried closing the door with the switch, only to find that it did exactly what it did last night. It closed unevenly until the wheel popped off again. We ended up closing it manually, which is probably what we should have done in the first place.

I had conflicting emotions about the experience. For one, I really enjoyed doing something bond-worthy with Sandy, just the two of us. Teambuilding exercises are great! Plus I really like fixing things, doing hands on stuff. The higher priority for me, however, was to uphold what I believe is a sacred law.

When it comes to maintaining my religion, I have always struggled with my dad’s side of the family, who are mostly mainstream Protestants; Sunday keepers who eat pork and celebrate Christmas.

My problem is how do I express to a woman whose house I am living in, who I barely know, who is religious herself but doesn’t agree with my religion, that I don’t want to help her in what she considers a valid time of need? I say “want” as opposed to “can’t” because I understand that I have a choice here. What is the obligation that I have and what is the greater priority? God knows the ins and outs and expects me to do the best I can, but this is a really sticky situation.

I would probably still be reeling from the experience, trying to hide in my room (am I really almost thirty?) to avoid the confrontation it would bring had I not just spoken to one of my roommates from Ohio.

Ruthie is a long-time friend. We met years before I even left for Ohio, during my original time in Alabama, and we lived together almost the entirety of my stay there. She shares my religious beliefs and knows the pressure I am feeling. In addition, she is significantly older than me and has a dearth of experience.

Here are some of the pieces of the scenario she pointed out that were great for perspective. Sandy is under a lot of stress right now with Dad leaving, therefore:

o Be helpful in any way that I can when I can, which is proper, given that I am staying in her home, and comforting
o Wait for her to bring up the door and then explain how I feel about addressing a non-emergency on the Sabbath
o Doing what I did at the time, in the given situation, was probably the right way to handle it, reflecting on the above reasons.

Ruthie also made me remember the reactions are sometimes delayed, and that I probably won’t see any real stress from Sandy until a few weeks down the road. When it comes out it might not have anything to do with me directly. Maybe something I do reminds her of my dad, or maybe it’s just something she’s dealing with. Be prepared for it. (I should clarify that reactions happen right on time, but sometimes it takes our brains a while to really process what has happened, for everything to finally sink in.)

I’m not saying the whole thing doesn’t bother me. This particular situation is over, but it still does. But, Ruthie was able to ease my conscience by saying that God knows the details of the situation and she didn’t think He would condemn me for my actions. From here on out, though, I know that I have to be more consistent, and I have to be firm, but polite.

It’s clear to me what my priorities are, and I want to stand by my convictions.

Hey, didn’t I say this was going to be interesting?

Best Intentions

10 Mar

Sandy, my stepmother, called me this afternoon while I was at the library. This was after a series of text messages about where I was and if I was able to take a call. In hindsight this was pretty polite of her, but at the time I was slightly confused. I told her she could call, which she did, only to ask me whether I had heard of travel nursing or not.

Sandy had not heard of this profession and was very impressed by the hourly rate that an acquaintance’s daughter was making for a job in Connecticut. I listened patiently, thinking I understood where she was going with the discourse. Sure enough, after a minute of talking, she trailed off, wanting me to say something.

I thanked her, both for the information and for looking out for me.

The entire conversation was interesting in the sense that Sandy never calls me. We’ve spoken on the phone at times when I’ve called my dad. I’ve called her at times, when we’re low on garbage bags, when it’s her birthday, etc. She does not call me. As soon as she was done talking about the travel nurse job, that was it. We both got off the phone.

This follows on the heels of my uncle suggesting (perhaps also trying to be helpful) that I attend a two-year college for a physical therapy degree. Besides the fact that you can’t get such a degree in two years, why are people who have little to nothing invested in my life be pushing for me to settle for something so… small?

It was annoying, I admit, since I’ve told her and my father both that I’m going back to school in the first place for physical therapy. I don’t want to be a traveling nurse. I don’t want to stray from the path that I have decided. It took several months of prayer, meditation, and counseling (AKA serious consideration) to make this move at all. To change my mind for a different occupation, even if it is in the same location, feels like betraying myself and the work that I have already put into this journey. Too many people in my generation are wishy-washy and I don’t want to be one of them.

I was talking to my former roommate last night who suggested I create a timeline for them; something to give them some comfort should they start to feel antsy about the amount of time I’m staying in their house. I did not think I had been ambiguous about it, but it’s possible. It’s not a bad idea, a clear timeline. I will prepare one, but I also live in a family whose motto is “Si suus dog noli id reficere.” Until they ask, I will keep the information to myself.


7 Mar

I’ve had mixed feelings about starting a new blog.  I have a journal that hasn’t been touched in more than a year now, given up in favor of personal journaling.  There’s also a food blog that seems like a needle in a haystack- also neglected for about six months (though to be fair, it’s hard to get movement for a food blog when one doesn’t have stellar pictures, and I don’t even have a camera.)

The main heel-dragger that keeps holding me back is a feeling of obligation.  If I start writing this thing, I’ll feel obligated to commit to a kind of schedule.  Successful blogs I follow update at least weekly, sometimes more often.  I have ideas a plenty right now, but even they aren’t self-sustaining.  Or are they?

It only takes a trip downstairs where my father is alternating between reinstalling baseboards around the living room and listening to Rush Limbaugh to make the motivation come flying back, begging for Valium.  Mr. Limbaugh isn’t even the problem.  He has plenty of ideas I don’t agree with, and a reputation that makes me hesitate to even attempt to listen to his program.  The problem is my father making comments like, “One day you’ll listen to [him,]” so very amusedly, as if my demographic is on a perfect trajectory to become the next audience.  It probably would not be so amusing to point out that by the time I am his age, Mr. Limbaugh will probably be dead.

So what is this all about?  What are the factors that make me vacillate between commitment and fleeing?

The story begins over a decade ago, but I’m going to start closer to present day.  Recently (less than two weeks ago,) I moved home to live with my parents.  Well, not to live with them.  As anyone (I hope) who has ever made this move will tell you, no one does this for the amusement of it.  It’s a means to an end.  The end for me is a return to college, or even more specifically, as little debt as possible after the duration of this return.

I’m twenty-six years old, and I already have a four-year degree (as well as the student debt I garnered in pursuit of it) from a little-known liberal arts college.  I was born, raised, and currently live in the Southeastern United States, but I spent the past three years living in the Midwest.  It’s the beginning of March and every time I step outside I’m sure that we’re halfway through summer already.  This is not hyperbole.  More provoking than the weather are the conflicting feelings I have with what seems like every scenario I encounter.  At one moment I am comforted by the genuine warmth of new friends and family, more forward than anywhere else I have visited, while the next feeling awkward about racial tension and supremely conservative political leanings.

I have lived abroad and am very familiar with the experiences of integration, culture shock, reintegration, and reverse culture shock, so I know the framework for the cognitive dissonance I’m feeling.  That does not necessarily mean that any of these experiences are going to be easier for the foreknowledge.

The purpose of blogging is three-fold.  One, I process my thoughts and feelings best in written format.  Two, I don’t have a lot of friends here with whom I am close, and I don’t talk on the phone a lot.  Three, I feel like there are others in the world who have either gone through this experience or one day will, and I want to be able to give them resources or understanding about what they have gone, are going, or will go through.

It promises to be an interesting journey.  Interesting.  However, I’m committed to it to the end, and the incredible opportunity for growth that is before me.  If you feel inclined, please join me.